Everyone knows the importance of qualifying a sales opportunity. Sales teams know it’s how to get their organisation to support a bid. Bid managers know it ensures that bid teams work on realistic opportunities. Sales managers know it keeps some order in a busy and frenetic workplace. Importantly, sales qualification is an investment decision where the organisation needs assurance that the cost and effort of responding to a bid will provide a return in the form of additional revenue.

But does sales qualification actually work? Is it worth the effort spent in preparing slidedecks, updating CRM records and complying with organisation checklists?

What the survey respondents said about sales qualification

Question 8 on my bid management survey asked about sales qualification. I know there’s a wide range of practices out there, so I gave respondents four alternative answers. Their responses are below (n=67).

  • There is a formal meeting where stakeholders and management approve pursuing the opportunity based on objective criteria. (48%)
  • The sales team decide after consulting with stakeholders. (19%)
  • The sales team decide based on the perceived probability of winning. (12%)
  • We pursue nearly every sales opportunity. (21%)

Slightly less than half of respondents follow a “textbook” approach to sales qualification, while a further one in five at least consult with stakeholders. But one in three respondents work in organisations that appear to take a completely subjective approach to sales qualification. Is that a problem? Did you expect a higher number to be completely subjective?

Does qualification improve win rates?

The theory behind sales qualification is that you improve your win rates by not pursuing opportunities you are unlikely to win, or are not an attractive prospect. Here are the Question 8 responses mapped against Question 10, which asked about win rates (n=65).

This was the most surprising result of my survey. According to the responses, formal qualification based on objective criteria is the second least effective way to drive win rates. The sample size and respondent demographics are good enough that there should be a clear impact of sales qualification improving win rates, if this was the case.

What’s going on then?

These results could be just poor sampling, but I don’t think so. I tried filtering by organisation revenue (Question 2) and typical bid contract value (Question 5) and got similar splits in responses.

The last thing I want is for organisations to abandon qualifying their sales opportunities. The fact that sales qualification appears not to work shows to me that it isn’t being done properly.

Has sales qualification become a box-ticking exercise?

This is my concern. Sales qualification should be rigorous and even adversarial. No one should be afraid of a fierce conversation to flush out the truly worthwhile sales opportunities. Serious attention must be given to the analysis of the each opportunity. That way, we all work on more successful bids and organisations don’t waste valuable bid budgets.

What’s your view? Join in the discussion below and have your say.